TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Mars Comes to Visit Us This Weekend

Mars Comes to Visit Us This Weekend

Alicia Chang (
Thu, 27 Oct 2005 11:43:20 -0500

By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer

Mars is ready for another close-up. For the second time in nearly
60,000 years, the Red Planet will swing unusually close to Earth this
weekend, appearing as a yellow twinkle in the night sky.

Mars' latest rendezvous will not match its record-breaking approach to
Earth in 2003, when it hovered from 35 million miles away. But more
skygazers this time around can glimpse the fourth rock from the sun
because it will glow above the horizon.

"This is the best we're going to see Mars, so we should strike the
iron while it is hot," said Kelly Beatty, executive editor of Sky &
Telescope magazine.

On Saturday, Mars' orbit will bring it 43.1 million miles away from
Earth, with its closest pass scheduled for 11:25 p.m. EDT. The two
planets -- normally separated by about 140 million miles -- will not be
this close again until 2018.

Mars will still seem small to the naked eye, appearing about the size
of a penny seen from 620 feet away. The rust-colored planet will be at
its brightest this weekend, and no celestial body in that part of the
sky will be as luminous, Beatty said.

Most backyard telescopes will see Mars as a small, brilliant
ball. Observers with more powerful instruments might be able to
discern details on the planet's surface, including its southern ice
cap and white clouds.

The orbiting Hubble Space Telescope will train its eyes on Mars during
the passing, snapping close-ups as it did in 2003.


On the Net:

Sky & Telescope magazine:

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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